Northwood University - AQIP in Action

May 2008

It is the time of the year when we celebrate our students’ accomplishments, complete another successful DeVos-Dow-Hantz session, and certainly prepare for commencement ceremonies. And how could I not mention review of final projects, final grading and exam prep, prep for minis, and prep for summer activities?!

As we wind down our work in the classroom, I would like to bring you up-to-date on the various topics we have been discussing over the last several months. This issue of AQIP in Action covers improvements and actions in:

  • the department chair structure across our traditional campuses,
  • instructional improvement initiatives,
  • assessment,
  • the strategic plan.

Department chair structure for traditional undergraduate programs

After much discussion and feedback, we are moving ahead on a restructuring of the current department chair role. We learned much from the AQIP Systems Portfolio analysis, Program Reviews, discussions with the Professional Standards Committees, and Deans’ Council interactions. Right now we have 35 department chairs for our campuses – with a total of about 83 full-time and 82 part-time faculty. Chairs address both administrative and curricular functions, yet we have found an uneven use and role for chairs – equity of load issues; inconsistency in how curriculum is addressed across campus programs; inconsistency in addressing collaborations (with Admissions, Advancement, Alumni, industry relations, etc.); unevenness of evaluations; and overall efficiency and effectiveness issues of the position relative to number of chairs, size of programs, and investment being made. Add in that Texas has moved to areas of concentration as well as our move to semesters in fall 2010 – and you have a situation warranting a change.

We are addressing instructional improvement and re-shifting priorities to a One Northwood curriculum, equity and efficiency, using deans as academic thought leaders, and using real-dollar savings to reinvest in academics. Many options have been considered, and beginning this fall, we will move to a division structure which includes:

  • divisions (management, marketing, quantitative studies, communications, arts and sciences) and various programs/departments within each;
  • division chairs -- addressing administrative tasks (hiring and orienting faculty, evaluating, scheduling, budgeting, collaborating with a variety of offices, and assisting with student retention issues) and receiving two releases per year;
  • program leads -- for all majors and some general education areas, addressing academic program vision, quality, and assessment; alumni, admissions, and industry collaborations, and receiving one release per year to address curricular relationship roles;
  • deans -- will be providing assistance and oversight on all of the above, addressing academic growth and change initiatives, and oversee curricular activities with assigned programs across the campuses to provide curricular oversight by designated program.

Ultimately, we should think about chair restructuring as an interim step – a step towards improving and reinvesting in the academic enterprise. As we mature and move increasingly toward a learner-centered culture, we should continually address our department structure. The campus academic deans have already been talking with faculty colleagues on this restructuring and are working to finalize details.

Instructional improvement initiatives

We have made tremendous strides this year in focusing on instructional improvement. Faculty Jennifer Luzar and Laura Vosejpka have led our L.E.A.F. efforts during this pilot phase and the response has been exciting! A sampling of improvements:

  • L.E.A.F. newsletters spreading instructional improvement tips and recognition,
  • workshops for full-time and adjunct faculty, 
  • one-on-one coaching sessions,
  • a focus on possible new technology use in the classroom,
  • a major push for online learning activities (thanks to consultant Patrick Callaghan and the efforts of many – this includes a consistent format for online courses, online training, online instructional design and research support, and a plan for moving online activities forward),
  • support for faculty attending external teaching improvement sessions.

Please note one of our investment areas is providing on-the-ground support to faculty and, as such, we are designating:

  • instructional improvement faculty reps within each operating unit – focusing on teaching support, they’ll be serving as coaches, teachers, facilitators for peers,
  • technology development reps within each operating unit – providing BB™ support,
  • an instructional designer and instructional researcher to assist faculty teaching online,
  • a classroom technology specialist who will collaborate with operating units to improve technology within our classrooms.

And as you talk with your deans, please note we are investing in:

  • faculty via positions in Michigan and Florida,
  • faculty via faculty development support in Texas to help achieve Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board standards,
  • DeVos programming,
  • our international program area,
  • adjunct faculty support.


We have funded two groups of faculty to attend two major national conferences this year and have continued discussions on where we stand on “how we know” we are delivering our 12 Outcomes and program/course objectives. We need further focus and practical applications in this area and, as such, please note:

  • we have posted an internal position announcement for Assessment Coordinator – this person will report directly to me and will be charged with working across all programs to deliver practical assessment advice and move us forward on this front;
  • this will be a featured area of focus next year.

Strategic plan

You were invited to provide input to our strategic planning sessions throughout the late fall and winter months and the Officer Team is taking a draft strategic plan to the Board of Trustees. We will be discussing the plan with the Board at the May 9 meeting and hope to have an approved plan thereafter. We will share the plan and it will become the basis for actions over the near-term. It should be no surprise that it incorporates findings from the AQIP Systems Portfolio, Program Reviews, and strategy discussions. More details to follow, but please note our draft strategic themes include:

  • Enhance the Learning Environment,
  • Nurture a Learning Organization,
  • Cultivate Student Growth,
  • Continue Aggressive Branding/Marketing Efforts,
  • Execute Advancement Plan.

And I also must take this time to publicly acknowledge the tremendous efforts of Dr. Cheryl Pridgeon, our Florida Campus dean. After years of outstanding service, Cheryl is returning to her area of passion–the classroom. Our focus this year has been to assess how we can improve the teaching/learning exchange and this action solidifies our focus! Thank you, Cheryl!

In sum, many actions and improvements have been made over the last nine months. For example, we have:

  • begun strategy discussions and are moving toward adopting and executing a strategic plan,
  • conducted program reviews,
  • decided on a move to semesters,
  • invested in developing faculty for instructional improvement and assessment initiatives, 
  • adopted a new department chair structure,
  • revised many academic processes to provide a more cohesive One Northwood experience – to name a few.

We are moving towards a more learner-centered environment, know we have some continuing room for improvement, yet are making excellent strides.  

As always, my door/email/phone are open for feedback and questions!

Please have a tremendous wrap-up to the spring term – challenge our students to keep learning, growing, and becoming global leaders of a free-enterprise society! Thanks for ALL that you do in helping students discover the leader within!

We will pause AQIP in Action for the summer months and return as the 2008-2009 academic year commences.

My very best to committed, real-world, thought-provoking faculty colleagues,

John Jasinski
Executive Vice President/Chief Academic and Operating Officer Northwood University